College graduates struggle to find jobs in a tough economy.

According to a study released by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, in May 2011, only 56% of college graduates in 2010 were able to find a job after graduation, as compared to the 90% of graduates from the 2006/2007 class. This statistic alone shows the sign of how hard economic times adversely affect the new college graduates that are entering the type of job market where even experienced workers are having a hard time finding a job—causing some white collar professionals to turn to bartending and waitressing to make ends meet.

Get Your Foot in the Door before Graduation

One of the key elements to make sure that you have a job in your career field is to plan ahead of time. One or even two years before you graduate, look for internship opportunities and part-time work with firms, businesses, organizations and companies in your field of study, or in the line of work you are interested in pursuing. When you intern or work with a company while you are finishing your studies, and you show what a great asset you can be to the company, you are likely to receive an offer for full-time work as you near graduation.

In other words, do not wait until you are about to graduate or after you have already graduated to scramble to look for work. Especially in a tough economy, the longer lead-time you have to start preparing for your post-graduation work, the better your chances are of setting up the process you need to go through to land a full-time position when graduation time does come.

Go Back to School

It may sound ironic or as if it is a procrastination tactic, but some careers truly require a higher education degree, such as a master’s degree or Ph.D., to find a job. For example, psychology majors are finding that an undergraduate degree in this field is simply not enough to land them a job in their career field. Not only does going back to school, or continuing your education, allow you to obtain the degree you need to start working in your field, but it also puts you back in the job market in what is hopefully a better economy and as a more marketable job candidate.

Be Persistent

Finding a job is, well, a full-time job. Even if you have to take on a job that’s not what you expected to be able to pay your bills, continue to look for a job. In other words, do not just take a job to make enough money to make ends meet, get stuck in a rut and expect the job of your dreams to just land in your lap. If it means working full-time, 40 hours a week at a job, but coming home each night and spending two hours looking for jobs in your field, sending out resumes and contacting companies that you want to work for (even if they don’t have jobs posted) to market yourself as a possible candidate, then do it.

While you will receive rejection emails, letters and no’s on the telephone, do not allow this to discourage you. Persistence does pay off.

Follow Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

When you cannot find a job in your career path, you can create a job in your career path. You can go through the process of officially opening your own business. You can also work side gigs while working a full-time job. Many part-time gigs turn into full-time gigs, depending on what the line of work is and how hard you work at turning the side gig into full-time work.

For example, a journalism or marketing graduate may aspire to become a full-time writer. Scour websites, such as Craigslist.org, Guru.com and eLance.com, to find and bid on writing gigs. First, landing some of these gigs helps you to bring in extra money. More importantly, however, it also helps you to build up a pipeline of work and even land regular clients to the point where one day your side gigs turn into your full-time gig—and doing what you set out to do in the first place.

Go Where the Jobs Are

While the entire country is affected by the downturn in the economy, there are states, cities and regions that have tons of jobs, but don’t have enough candidates to fill the positions. Do your homework to find out where the jobs are and go after them. Landing a job in a different city doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever, but it does provide you with the opportunity to start your career and apply for positions in the places where you want to live in the meantime.

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